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Offbeat – 19 April 2013

Violence spreads like a virus. We have seen it with shootings. We have seen it with bombings. It happens all over the world, and the phenomenon is inevitable in the USA as well. There is no point in being shocked.

Anyone here who hasn’t heard of the Boston Marathon bombing, please emerge from under your rock and get on the web. The story has spread so far, even the porn sites are probably starting to carry the news now. That is what this column is about.
I’m not going to rehash the details. Some folks got killed, and some got injured and that should be sad and shocking. I have not found those emotions in me. Stop reading now if you suspect you may be offended.
A scan of the social feeds shows complete shock and horror.  I am not sure why. Under almost all circumstances, people are completely indifferent to bloodshed and violence. In this very same week, heaps of people got killed in places like Syria and a place called Bangui. You don’t know where Bangui is? Google it.
The deaths in Syria got a bit of coverage. So did Bangui, but less. Then the Boston thing arrived and dominated everything. The range of emotions ran the gamut from shock and anger to social media tears.
I’m pretty sure I know what the difference is. If you are sensitive, you may want to look away now.
The only possible fact can be that the victims in Boston were rated more important than the ones in Syria and Bangui. That in itself speaks volumes. Now lets get real. All victims are human and tragic. No victim should be held above another. Where’s the social media coverage on the other bloodied corpses? There should be outrage there as well. Or was Boston just a passing moment of emotional entertainment?
Let’s get onto the shock. I had a wonderful opportunity in a late night chat. I won’t call it interaction, because I let loose and ran with it. The thoughts came fast. It was more like a soliloquy. Thanks to that person for not shutting me down though.
The directed nature of the shock seems wrong to me. Nobody was shocked by the other incidents, but Boston seemed to get the emotions running high. The suspicion arose that the bloodshed in the other two places was seen as normal, but the one in Boston was seen as an offense to humanity.
I asked myself why there should be shock about Boston in the first place? Why should it be seen as unusual? Taking the event in isolation, I thought about the idea of the betrayal of what is called ‘humanity’. That didn’t make sense to me. In other places, livestock earn more emotional attachment.
It struck me that the concept of an ‘unusual tragedy’ has to be questioned. Bloodshed seems as natural as a hurricane, which never gets any major blame personal because it is a weather phenomenon. It just happens, same as mortars raining down in Syria or ethnic conflict in Bangui and a hundred other places.
The concept of humanity does not make sense on a broad scale. In order to be humane, people need to value other people. That has fallen away to a very large degree. In a village, everyone is seen and understood. Everyone has a role, even if it is just the village idiot. In the huge cities of today, in the over-complex and overpopulated world, it is all too easy to forget the value of individuals, to cease noticing or understanding them.
Back in the village, people with different ways are brought into line in a healing process, punished or expelled. In the huge, modern complex, individuals are part of a numbers game. An anomalous individual is a mathematical oddity that can only be seen when the order of the numbers is disturbed. The only way to spot the anomaly faster is to impose a greater degree of uniformity so the anomaly can be identified quicker. That becomes a matter of civil liberty.
Violence spreads like a virus. We have seen it with shootings. We have seen it with bombings. It happens all over the world, and the phenomenon is inevitable in the USA as well. There is no point in being shocked.
Victims are victims, tragedies to their families and friends. Perhaps now, it is time to take a look at how we approach them though. The victims in Boston are no different from those elsewhere. Life needs to be valued equally wherever it is.

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